In 2015, AKM Rana was doing rather well as a landlord. The then 35 years old did not have to do much yet money was flowing in from the two buildings and several shops he leased out.
But then he watched a movie – Boss: Born to Rule – in which the lead creates a network of gangs, develops a crime empire, and assumes control of the underworld.
He formed a gang that year comprised mostly of ruling party men. They picked up people posing as law enforcers and robbed them. Rana used to claim that he was an assistant commissioner of detective branch of police.
But leading a gang was never Rana's ultimate goal. He wanted an empire to rule.
Rana connected his gang with eight more gangs operating in the capital and brought them under a single umbrella. He even employed sources across the capital to tip the gang off about people carrying valuables and large amount of cash.
Together the gangs, each 16 to 20 men strong, mugged people in broad daylight posing as law enforcers, said Bashir Ahmed, superintendent of Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI). They would use motorbikes and microbuses to take their victims to isolated places, he said.
Over the last two years, they were involved in at least 24 muggings, said Sheikh Alamin, PBI sub-inspector. He, however, could not say how much money they had taken.
The PBI arrested Rana and one of his cohorts Nazmul Hossain, 24, and six others on November 19 at Victoria Park in the capital and recovered four motorcycles, three walkie-talkies, a pair of handcuffs, and two fake pistols.
Rana and Nazmul made confessional statements before a court the next day.
Arrestee Delwar Hossain, 50, is a former secretary of Sramik League Bangshal unit, while Bulbul Ahmed, 32, and Asaduzzaman, 35, are Sramik League activists. The others in jail are Sohag Khandaker, 31, Jabed Ahamed, 37, and Harun alias Hira, 32, according to investigators.
The PBI was able to track down the gang after victim Mustafizur Rahman on October 25 filed a case with Tejgaon Industrial Police Station.
According to his complaint, Rana and his gang members identified themselves as detectives and picked up Mustafiz and his friend from a bus labeling them yaba dealers in Norda area of Dhaka.
Mustafiz had Tk 13 lakh on him then, said PBI officials.
The gang let the friend go and took Mustafiz to an isolated place in Tejgaon and tried to take his money. But Mustafiz was not to give it up without a fight. He cried for help and locals came rushing in to his rescue.
They even managed to capture one of the gang members.
Gleaning information from the gang member, a PBI team arrested the rest, including gang boss Rana.
PBI sub-inspector Alamin, also the investigation officer of the case, said Rana's sources were in business zones of the capital -- Tantibazar, Shakharibazar, Islampur and Bangshal.
At least 150 employees of shops and businesses worked for the gang, the PBI official said.
The sources tipped the gang off about people carrying big amount of cash or gold, said Alamin.
“For each successful robbery, the sources got 40 percent of the booty.”
After Rana took over, the gang started sharing resources, including arms, and coordinated their robbery attempts, he said.
“Some [gang members] are also connected to Sramik League, Jubo League activities,” he said.
Alamin further said they learnt about another key person in the gang and they were looking for him.
The Daily Star could not talk to the arrestees since they are in jail. This correspondent went to Rana's home to talk to his family members but nobody was home.